Aromatherapy for Depression

It's no secret that fragrance lifts and enhances one’s mood. The aroma of many plants, such as the elegant orange-blossom aroma of neroli or the closely related and less expensive petitgrain -- as well as jasmine, sandalwood, and ylang ylang -- relieve depression and anxiety.

Modern aromatherapists agree with the seventeenth-century herbalist John Gerard, who recommended the use of clary sage to ease depression, paranoia, mental fatigue, and nervous disorders. Researchers at International Flavors and Fragrances, Inc., in New Jersey have found that orange reduces anxiety. East Indians traditionally use basil to prevent agitation and nightmares.


Fragrances are generally effective for people who have mild forms of depression that do not require drugs. And they can be especially helpful when the doctor is trying to wean patients off drugs. Aromatherapy can be used safely in conjunction with antidepressant medications because it will not interfere with the dosage or effect. If you are currently taking prescription drugs to deal with depression or anxiety, however, don’t abruptly stop taking them or replace them with essential oils without your doctor’s okay.

Massage and bath oils are probably the most relaxing forms of antidepressant aromatherapy. If you wish to make your environment more uplifting at home or at work, try using an aromatherapy room spray, or put the essential oils in an aromatherapy diffuser, potpourri cooker, or a pan of simmering water.

You can make a constant companion of your favorite oil, or of a blend of oils from the following list, by carrying them in a small vial (see our article on Aromatherapy Chest Congestion Relief for instructions for making a nasal inhaler). Then, when you need a lift, just take a whiff.

Essential oils for relieving anxiety and depression: bergamot, cedarwood, cinnamon, clary sage, cypress, geranium, jasmine, lavender, lemon, marjoram, neroli, orange, sandalwood, rose, ylang ylang

 To learn more about Aromatherapy and other alternative medicines, see:

  • Aromatherapy: Here you will learn about aromatherapy, how it works, what part essential oils play, and how to use aromatherapy.
  • Essential Oils Profiles: We have collected profiles of dozens of plants that are used to produce essential oils. On these pages, you will learn the properties and preparations for the most popular essential oils.
  • How to Treat Common Conditions With Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be used to treat a number of conditions, from asthma to depression to skin problems. Here you will learn how to treat some common medical problems with aromatherapy.
  • Home Remedies: We have gathered over a hundred safe, time-tested home remedies for treating a wide variety of medical complaints yourself.
  • Herbal Remedies: Herbal remedies and aromatherapy can be very similar, and they stem from similar historic roots. On this page, you will find all of our herb profiles and instructions for treating medical problems with herbal remedies.



Kathi Keville is director of the American Herb Association and editor of the American Herb Association Quarterly newsletter. A writer, photographer, consultant, and teacher specializing in aromatherapy and herbs for over 25 years, she has written several books, including Aromatherapy: The Complete Guide to the Healing Art and Pocket Guide to Aromatherapy, and has written over 150 articles for such magazines as New Age Journal, The Herb Companion, and New Herbal Remedies.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.